Maintaining ‘safety’ in a conversation is the difference between an outcome and an outbreak. It's when both parties feel ‘safe enough’ to be honest with each other that you reach the best outcomes and preserve great working relationships. I first became inspired by this idea after reading about the importance of maintaining the ‘safe zone’ in VitalSmarts' Crucial Conversations. I have since then added to their thinking.
Management expert and author Ken Blanchard says that ‘real communication happens when people feel safe’. This is not a ‘warm and fuzzy’ space. It's about having a constructive conversation that leads to an outcome.
When things go wrong in a conversation we assume the content is the problem, so we water it down, sugar-coat it or avoid it altogether in the hope that the other person will do the heavy lifting and see the truth hidden underneath. Or we do the opposite: we have a strong reaction and go into battle with our ‘opponent’ in an effort to be seen as right.
No wonder the outcomes we are looking for (changed behaviour, better performance, improved attitudes) don't happen — we let our emotional reactions become the priority rather than the content or purpose of the conversation.
But here's the good news. As long as your intent is good and you learn how to make it safe for others, you can give feedback and have tough conversations with almost anyone about almost anything. Many people do not believe there can be a marriage between ...